Do you still use yours? (Photo: Andrew Milligan via PA Wire/PA Images)
Go on the bus, train, or head to any social gathering and you’re unlikely to see many face masks today. A year ago the view was completely different, and the year before even more so.
Since the relaxation of the Covid rules, many of us have developed a rather lax attitude to wearing face protection when out and about. And we get it, sometimes it’s good to pretend Covid doesn’t exist.
But pretending does not alter reality. It’s important to remember that covid is still going on: people are still getting infected, immunocompromised people are at risk, and many parts of the world are still vulnerable. Those with health conditions such as asthma, a respiratory condition just like Covid, are also worried about being infected.
Now, during Disability Pride month, many are pointing out that we should all wear masks to protect those who are less protected against the virus and could suffer more serious consequences.
There is also the issue of protecting ourselves as cases rise. After all, how sick you get depends on how much viral load you acquire.
Professor Paul Hunter of Norwich Medical School tells HuffPost UK: “One of the little-known facts is that even if you catch covid while wearing a face mask, you may not be that sick. The severity of the illness depends in part on how much virus you ingest, and face masks reduce this dose of exposure, thereby reducing the severity.
“My personal view is that while infection rates are high and rising, if you are particularly vulnerable and haven’t recently had Covid, it makes a lot of sense to wear a mask in crowded public settings. I also think it’s appropriate for healthcare facilities or other areas that serve vulnerable people to once again ask people to wear masks.”
In fact, hospital cases with Covid are expected to rise further, according to a chief executive of the UK’s Health Security Agency, who spoke of concerns about the ability to treat other illnesses as a result.
Jenny Harries said it doesn’t look like the current wave has peaked and urged people to “go about their normal lives” but in a “precautionary” manner.
He said the majority of cases in the UK now are Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants and that the latter “is really driving and driving this current wave”.
Harries urged people to wash their hands, keep their distance where possible and wear a face covering in closed, poorly ventilated places.
Disabled people, with compromised immune systems, have to protect themselves and we must protect them too, say the charities.
Alison Kerry, head of communications for disability equality charity Scope, told HuffPost UK: “Covid has not gone away and still poses a very real risk to some disabled people.
“The continued spread of Covid infections puts some disabled people in an extremely difficult situation, where even going to the supermarket could be life-threatening. No one should be forced to gamble with their life.
“We strongly encourage everyone who can to wear a mask in crowded spaces and self-isolate if they test positive for Covid-19. His election will help millions of clinically vulnerable people in the UK.”
Something to think about.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.